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A Sociology of Art, Protest and Emotions: Disrupting the Institutionalisation of Corporate Sponsorship at Tate Galleries

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Sociology of the Arts in Action

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Abstract

This chapter examines the practices disrupting the legitimacy of an institutional, corporate logic in the field of non-profit art museums. It focuses on activist group Liberate Tate’s (2010–16) protests aimed at ending BP’s (beyond petroleum) corporate sponsorship of Tate Galleries. It puts forward a sociology of art protests where emotions emerge from the performance of interaction rituals (Passionate Politics, 2001, The University of Chicago Press; Interaction Ritual Chains, 2004, Princeton University Press). These types of protests enable protesters to express loyalty to their cause, and to launch a critique against institutionalised ways of financing arts museums and their collections.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    The term ‘artistically performed protests’ as used in this chapter, is used, broadly, to describe a specific type of protest that follows aesthetic and theatrical conventions, representing ideas with the help of music, dance and synchronised movements (see Adams, 2002).

  2. 2.

    Tate Galleries include Tate Modern and Tate Britain in London, as well as Tate Liverpool and Tate St Ives in Cornwall. The protests analysed in this chapter take place in both Tate Modern and Tate Britain.

  3. 3.

    This applies most clearly to the field of restricted production as opposed to the field of large-scale production where commercial interests prevail (see Bourdieu, 1993).

  4. 4.

    Durkheim analyses the reproduction of solidarity in religious group rituals that produce belief, using the example of tribal gatherings of Australian aborigines. However, whilst Durkheim’s work on rituals addresses a fundamental issue in sociology, that of what holds society together, it also obliterates the role emotions play in the production of moral solidarity (Collins, 1990, p. 27), and this particular aspect is what Collins’ theory seeks to unravel.

  5. 5.

    http://www.bp.com/en/global/corporate/press/press-releases/national-portrait-gallery-announces-family-affair-shortlist-for-.html

  6. 6.

    BP was a premium sponsor of the London Cultural Olympiad, which included twelve weeks of concerts, exhibitions and events across the country that ran alongside the Olympic Games.

  7. 7.

    http://www.tate.org.uk/join-support/corporate-support/cross-platform-partnership

  8. 8.

    http://www.tate.org.uk/join-support/corporate-support/cross-platform-partnership

  9. 9.

    http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-britain/display/bp-walk-through-british-art

  10. 10.

    BP has been the object of attacks and critiques by a number of protest groups. However, Liberate Tate is the only group that has specifically targeted BP’s sponsorship of Tate.

  11. 11.

    http://beautifultrouble.org/author/johnjordan/

  12. 12.

    BP sponsors Tate Gallery, the National Portrait Gallery, Royal Opera House, the British Museum, whilst Shell sponsors the science Museum, the National History Museum, the National Gallery, the National Theatre, The South Bank Centre and the National Maritime Museum.

  13. 13.

    Rising Tide UK and the Rising Tide National Group, which are, in turn, part of the International Rising Tide network, started in 2000 and inclusive of countries such as North America, Australia, Ecuador, Mexico and Finland, started the campaign. Platform is the longest standing organisation in the Art Not Oil campaign; started in 1983, it focuses on the impacts of the global oil industry and combines art activism, education and research ‘to create projects driven by the need for social and ecological justice’. See http://risingtide.org.uk and http://platformlondon.org/about-us/

  14. 14.

    http://liberatetate.wordpress.com/

  15. 15.

    http://liberatetate.wordpress.com/performances/licence-to-spill-june-2010/

  16. 16.

    http://liberatetate.wordpress.com/performances/licence-to-spill-june-2010/

  17. 17.

    Reference to Ai Wei Wei’s installation which consisted in millions of hand-crafted porcelain seeds, which are designed to challenge first impressions, ‘what you see is not what you see, and what you see is not what it means’ (http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-modern/exhibition/unilever-series-ai-weiwei/interpretation-text). Liberate Tate’s performance thus alludes to BP’s public reputation as a sponsor of Tate, which it seeks to challenge (http://liberatetate.wordpress.com/performances/sunflower-september-2010/)

  18. 18.

    The BP Week of Action was called by Liberate Tate, Art Not Oil, Climate Camp London, UK Tar Sands Network, Climate Rush, Indigenous Environmental Network and London Rising Tide. Under the slogan ‘BP and culture: time to break it off’, the groups held a number of public campaigns.

  19. 19.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=luoL5A-SHQk

  20. 20.

    The Guardian, 11 March 2016.

  21. 21.

    https://hyperallergic.com/288254/liberate-tate-activists-look-back-on-six-years-of-fighting-bp-sponsorship/

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Herrero, M. (2022). A Sociology of Art, Protest and Emotions: Disrupting the Institutionalisation of Corporate Sponsorship at Tate Galleries. In: Rodríguez Morató, A., Santana-Acuña, A. (eds) Sociology of the Arts in Action. Sociology of the Arts . Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-11305-5_13

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